The semantics of a band called Sharptooth releasing an album called Clever Girl are just as interesting to analyse by themselves as the actual music. The name itself hints at the sort of hardcore savagery that will undoubtedly be contained within, but with an album title stemming from Bob Peck’s address of a Velociraptor in Jurassic Park, as well as the condescension towards women that this band has absolutely no time for, the pieces begin to fit together even more clearly.
And sure enough, Clever Girl‘s acidic contempt for a society that sees anyone who isn’t a straight, white man as lesser feels totally righteous and all too justified, particularly in the hands of Lauren Kashan and the utter venom she spits. Even more satisfying is the no-bullshit way she stacks up those in the firing line, from misogynists (the title track and Can I Get A Hell No) to homophobes (No Sanctuary) to those who use religion as an excuse for their hateful ideologies (Jesus Loves You), and on the bluntly-titled Fuck You Donald Trump, a President who acts as an enabler for such people rather than castigating them.
It might all be extremely reckless and fires wildly into the wind, but that’s the point. There’s not a single second that Kashan is behind the mic where she doesn’t sound as though she’d gleefully rip a man’s head off without a second thought, whether that’s the paint-stripping shrieks that come with the pure catharsis of opener Rude Awakening, or the unfettered, incandescent rage that colours so much of this album. As Kashan herself lays out on the aforementioned opener, this is the most convincing way of emoting she has, and Clever Girl really does push that to the nth degree, violent and caustic in a way that’s totally exhilarating almost right the way through. To nitpick, perhaps Pushing Forward leans a bit too heavily on cleans that can dilute it somewhat, but even then, there’s barely a moment where Sharptooth don’t let their carnivorous intentions bleed through, let alone one where they outright fail.
And that’s a useful asset to have onboard, particularly when their brand of metallic hardcore does fit uniformly into an archetype, but for what Sharptooth want to achieve here, there’s really no need to change when this works as well as it does. There’s such a monolithic weight to the guitars and drums on tracks like Give ‘Em Hell Kid and Can I Get A Hell No (at least after the rather perfunctory lo-fi intro of the latter), and Rise‘s transitions from vicious flurries to more conventionally battering grooves don’t feel nearly as leaden as it often does with some other bands. Moreover, there’s a ridiculous amount of tightness here; this is an album that just about cross the half-hour mark, and Sharptooth carry it out with such efficiency that there’s barely an ounce of flab to be cut back here.
That sort of craft definitely sets Sharptooth in good stead to become a serious force in modern hardcore, and what Clever Girl lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for it in pure, palpable rage and brutality, not to mention how hard the commentary bites and refuses to let go. In terms of what hardcore is in 2017, this is a triumph in every sense of the word – heavy, compelling and brimming with personality and character that so many bands in this scene seem to be allergic to. On their first real try, Sharptooth have already established themselves as the sort of band it’s absolutely imperative to have around, and hardcore is all the better for it.
For fans of: Knocked Loose, Stray From The Path, Varials
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Clever Girl’ by Sharptooth is out now on Pure Noise Records.